The story of the funeral of Hamdullah Uysal, a Tekel worker, who died during the recent struggle, an extract from a longer article soon to be published by the ICC in English.
The next morning, on the 25th (of February), the workers woke up to yet another bad news. A fellow Tekel worker, Hamdullah Uysal, had been killed in Ankara in a traffic accident.
Hamdullah Uysal, born in Amasya, had been working as a Tekel worker in Samsun. He was 39 years old, and had two kids, one of them disabled. He had participated in the hunger strikes. Tekel workers had experienced other losses during the struggle, some had mothers or fathers, and some had children who passed away, but this was the first time a Tekel worker had passed away during the struggle. Hamdullah Uysal was a militant worker who had been involved with the struggle from the beginning. He had been in Ankara from the start of the struggle, and had returned to his hometown only twice. Workers regarded him as a class war martyr. The way the accident had happened also resulted in class anger among the workers. Uysal had been hit by a jeep driven by a drunk driver at 5:30 in the morning, while going to the morning prayer. There was anger towards that person and the class he represented. The workers were referring to the murderer as a “some rich guy with a jeep”.
Because the workers saw Uysal as a martyr of the struggle, and because they felt that the tent city in front of Turk-Is was like a home to all of them, they wanted to bring his funeral to the tent city, have a ceremony there and then send Uysal home. They talked to Uysal’s wife, who said: “The street in front of the Turk-Is building was like a home to him, the tent in front of Turk-Is is his home, he would have wanted this. Have the ceremony in front of Turk-Is and then send him”.
Thus, 400-500 workers went to the Forensic Office in Kecioren, where Uysal’s body had been taken to. Actually everyone wanted to go there, but the workers decided to limit the number in order to not to leave the tents alone, since the government kept spitting out threats about destroying the tents. The workers feared the government could attack and tear down the tents as soon as they left Sakarya square. Thus some had to remain, and wait in front of Turk-Is for the body to be brought there.
The Tekel workers who went to the Forensics Office attempted take the body. They had to wait for hours, and were told that Uysal’s brother and uncle would come to pick up his body. In the end, a relative of Uysal who himself was a Tekel worker came, but the body wasn’t given to him either. Eventually an “uncle” emerged, who claimed to be Uysal’s aunts husband. The Forensics Office declared that the body was to be given to him. Workers who knew that bodies are only given to first degree relatives did not buy this “uncle” story. In fact, they suspected that the “uncle” could be an undercover cop, and voiced them. Their suspicions were confirmed when this “uncle” eventually had to admit that he indeed was an undercover cop. Thus, the workers started pushing to get the body again. The police did not allow it again. They waited for hours and also tried their best to call the Uysal family, but to no avail. Finally Hamdullah Uysal’s family arrived, and the Ankara Police and the Governorship immediately put them under pressure. The Ankara Police who stopped them on the road were trying to force the family to sign a document accepting that the body would be taken to Uysal’s home without a ceremony in Ankara. The pressures continued in the Forensics Office as well. Finally the family had to give in and agree to taking the body home without having a ceremony in Ankara.
In the meanwhile, the workers waiting in front of the Forensics Office were told that they would be given the body. Thus the workers got into the ambulance carrying Uysal’s body. However a group who realized that the ambulances were going a different way than they should immediately got out and blocked the road. Other workers followed. Workers stopped the ambulance from moving en masse. As a result the police came and went in-between the workers who remained in the back and those in front of the ambulance in order to stop it. The workers who remained in the back tried to help the ones in front of the ambulance, but the police attacked them with tear-gas and dispersed them, and then formed a second barricade. Then the police attacked the smaller group blocking the path of the ambulance and took all of them out. They did not want to let go of these workers. The larger group of workers however managed to gather again and started trying to unite with their fellow workers. This didn’t happen in the end though, and the police ended up managing to take the ambulance away by attacking the workers ferociously.
In the meanwhile, the workers who had been waiting in front of Turk-Is tried to go to Mithat Pasha Street and leave flowers where he died; but the police prevented them. They also dispersed the workers who gathered in Sakarya Square in order to help their fellow workers in the Forensic Office. In the face of the police barricade on the Mithat Pasha Street, the workers were shouting “You are afraid of our dead”. Slogans such as “Tayyip the murderer” and “Murderous AKP shall answer to the workers” were also shouted. Despite all the efforts of the police, a group of workers did manage to leave flowers on the place Hamdullah Uysal was killed.
The workers returning from the Forensics Office went directly to Mithat Pasha Street. The Police formed yet another barricade in order to prevent the workers from crossing the street en masse. The workers managed to break through the barricade however, and started a sit in on the street. Workers in front of Turk-Is also started coming. Together, they had a 20-25 minutes long sit-in, shouting slogans in memory of Hamdullah Uysal. Police surrounded the workers during this demonstration. Eventually the workers ended the sit-in and went back to the tent city.
The union did not take a stance on the side of the workers during all this. It was absent when the police attacked the workers in front of the Forensics Office. When the workers in front of Turk-Is wanted to go to help their fellow workers, the trade-unionists only tried to calm them down and make them return to their tents.
Hamdullah Uysal’s death showed once more how scared the forces of the order were of the workers. The Police and the Governorship had tried their best to prevent the workers from bidding their farewell to their deceased fellow worker, but in the end it was a vain effort. The workers managing to break through the police barricade and having a sit-in on the street where Uysal died, blocking all the traffic on the street, even if for only 20-25 minutes, was perhaps the best farewell the Tekel workers could bid to their deceased fellow worker.
Uysal’s death had upset the Tekel workers greatly, but it also helped the Tekel workers who were still in their hometowns understand how serious the whole thing was. On of the things Hamdullah Uysal left us, was his call for the expansion of the struggle to the rest of the class: “Here, everything gained by the working class will become a compass for the working class movements of tomorrow and after tomorrow. Join our struggle, save your future.”